Yummy Weeds, part 2 ( Chervil and Coriander)


That’s chervil on the left, nestled up against dandelion, another delicious weed (harvesting and recipe tips below – in the entry for April 3rd). No pic of the coriander – yet. It’s too windy every time I think of it…

The first seeds we planted (peas) have barely broken the surface, but the coriander and chervil that planted themselves are off and running; chervil vinaigrettes have been on the menu for several weeks now and we had the first guacamole with homegrown cilantro about 10 days ago.

Having these two in abundance after a winter of pallid store cilantro* and no chervil at all, what a thrill!

The flavors are very different; clean-spicy anise-y chervil has nothing in common with the funky richness of cilantro except a penetrating greenness, but in the garden they are almost twins:

Both are cool weather plants that sprout early, go to flower in the summer and make a second crop in fall.

Both are rampant self-sowers; just let a few of those flowers ripen and drop seeds and you can have truly delicious weeds.

Both are easy to remove if they do show up in the wrong spot, in part because both are tap rooted, which means

Both will either die or bolt ( send up flower stalks) if you try to transplant seedlings. Same goes for dill, another annual herb that should always be grown from seed. Parsley is tap rooted, too, and often presents the same problem, but because it’s a biennial it’s tougher. Parsley seedlings can move successfully as long as they are still very small and young.

The not-twin part is in the seeds:

Chervil seed should be very fresh, it doesn’t keep well from year to year. Cilantro seed is much longer lived. Also much cheaper to buy in bulk as spice. It won’t germinate if it’s been irradiated, but it usually hasn’t, so there’s no reason to buy those little dinky packets. Seeds cost less than a dollar an ounce when they’re sold as flavoring – for chili / sweet yeast breads/ gin…

Chervil seed is no special culinary delight, but coriander is not only great dried ( the classic spice use), it’s also delicious when green and soft. The flavor is right between funky leaf and sweet-flowery dried , wonderful in sauces for fish, in potato salad…

*cilantro is the most common US name for the leaves of the coriander plant, and is used here for convenience.

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